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Listen to Wide Open Opera - Athena Media's radio series and documentary broadcast on RTÉ Lyric fm

Fri 23 Nov 2012 by Athena Media

Re-Imagining Opera is a five part series for RTÉ lyric fm which was aired from Nov 19-23rd 2012 on the future of opera in Ireland. Do people think it's an art for the rich or is it an art form being starved of resources and forcing performers abroad? What do we feel and think about opera?

The series follows the story of Ireland's new opera company Wide Open Opera and its first production, Wagner's Tristan & Isolde which was performed in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre at the Grand Canal on Sept 30th, Oct 3th and 6th. The short feature series was broadcast on Niall Carroll’s Classical Daytime on RTÉ Lyric FM at 1.45pm on Monday the 19th, Tuesday 20th, Wednesday 21st, Thursday 22nd and Friday the 23rd of November, and the series culminated in an hour long behind the scenes feature, Wide Open Opera: Taking On Tristan, also on Friday the 23rd at 7.00pm. The opera itself was broadcast in full on Lyric fm on Saturday November 24th at 7.00pm.

The production team was led by award winning producer Helen Shaw and the recordist was Michael Gallen, himself a talented new composer. The radio production has been supported by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the documentary charts the story behind Wide Open Opera and its mission to radically change the status of opera as an art form in Ireland. The new opera company is led by conductor Fergus Sheil. Athena Media previously worked with Fergus on the Opera for Carlow radio project which was shortlisted for a PPI Award in 2011.


Episode 1: When things fall apart 19/11/2012

Last year the newly formed Irish National Opera Company closed just two years after its birth was announced. Opera Ireland had been wound down to form it and by June 2011 Irish opera seemed to be in crisis. Twelve months on new roots emerged including a new opera company launched by conductor Fergus Sheil called Wide Open Opera. An Arts Council award of €600,000 supporting its first production Wagner's Tristan & Isolde provoked debate. Should Ireland still yearn for a national company? What are the elements which will grow a unique Irish opera voice?

Episode 2: New roots 20/11/2012

For opera in Ireland funding is an issue. While the Tristan Und Isolde production got Arts Council support to the tune of 600,000 euro - there's effectively just a small handful of productions getting a slice of a radically reduced opera budget. But is money really the issue or is it all about attracting and building audiences who are prepared to pay for opera or to support public funds going to opera?

Episode 3: Wide Open Opera 21/11/2012

Fergus Sheil says the name of his new opera company is designed to make everyone feel opera is for them. 'We don't want to think outside the box - we want to break the box' he says and charts his personal journey across opera to that decision. Does Ireland need a new company?

Episode 4: Taking on Tristan 22/11/2012

For its first production Wide Open Opera takes on Wagner's epic classic Tristan & Isolde. It’s a life ambition for conductor Fergus Sheil but why is this opera so important? The tragic tale of the beautiful Irish princess and the Cornish war hero inspires some of the most beautiful music in Wagnerian opera but we talk to performers and musicians about why this is such a special opera and hear from someone who attended the last performance of Tristan & Isolde in Dublin some 50 years ago.

Episode 5: What next? 23/11/2012

With several major opera highlights this year including Lyric Opera's Aida production in November following Wexford Opera Festival we explore the future of opera in Ireland. With Wide Open Opera planning new Irish opera productions and exploring how to get opera into non-traditional venues.

Wide Open Opera: Taking On Tristan 23/11/2012

Taking on Tristan is an hour long behind the scenes feature on the story of Wide Open Opera, a new opera company launched by conductor Fergus Sheil, who staged Wagners Tristan and Isolde as its first production starring the Irish soprano Miriam Murphy Isolde. The opera was performed in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin last month and a recording of the opening night was broadcast on RTE lyric fm on November 24th at 7pm. Michael Gallen, a young composer himself, shadowed the new opera company from its first rehearsals to its final curtain call. The documentary is an Athena media production for RTE lyric fm and is made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. The producer is Helen Shaw and sound editing by Brendan Rehill. To listen to the full podcast of this documentary go here

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For more information go here